Francis Nichols: Hester Nichols' Grandfather
Fall 1999 and Revised 23 Feb 2001
By Joe Dewald, Editor, Prentice Newsletter
Update of 23 Feb 2001: The article has now been replaced and superseded by the article in our Summer 2001 issue on Francis Nichols Update
Valentine Prentice's son, John Prentice, married, first, Hester Nichols, and he married, as his second wife, Esther Nichols who was Hester's first cousin. Both were granddaughers of Francis Nichols.
An ongoing mystery is the identity of Francis' parents.
It is commonly, but erroneously, believed by many persons that Francis Nichols is the son of Francis Nichols and Margaret Bruce of Ampthill, Bedfordshire, England. That erroneous assertion can be found, for example, in "Sergeant Francis Nicholls of Stratford, Connecticut, 1639, and the Descendants of his son, Caleb Nicholls" by Walter Nicholls, former librarian of Bridgeport CT Public Library, and published in 1909 by The Grafton Press of New York. It is also found in "Genealogy & Family History of the State of CT" and "Americana Quarterly" Vol 15.
Francis and Margaret also had a son, Col. Richard Nichols, who later became Governor of the State of New York.
However, not all early authorities accepted Walter Nicholls' views. Donald Lines Jacobus, in the "History and Genealogy of the families of Old Fairfield" said:
"It should hardly be necessary to refute the foolish assertion that he was brother of Gov. Richard Nicholls of New York..."
In the Fall of 1988, while visiting in London, England, I had the opportunity to do some research at the highly-regarded Guildhall Genealogical Library in London to see if I could locate information about Francis Nichols and Margaret Bruce of Ampthill and their sons. The Guildhall library had a copy of Col. Richard Nichol's Will of 1672 which quite clearly recited the death of his brothers:
"Edward and Francis, the one dead at the Hague, the other at Paris during the late usurpation."
The sentence structure of Col. Richard's Will would indicate that Edward died at the Hague and that Francis died in Paris. But even if the death locations were reversed, it is clear that Francis died in Europe. Further, there was no indication in Guildhall records that the Francis, who died in Paris or the Hague, was ever married or had any children.
Since Col. Richard Nichols' Will demonstrates his personal knowledge of his brother Francis' death in Paris, or the Hague, the Francis who died in CT quite obviously had to be a different person and it would have been on that basis that Jacobus dismissed Walter Nicholls' "foolish assertion" that Francis was the son of Francis and Margaret of Ampthill.
So, if Francis and Margaret of Ampthill are not the parents of Francis Nichols of CT, who are his parents? We do not yet know.
If you have any information about the ancestry, or descendants, of any of the folks mentioned above, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org..